I Hope I Don't Intrude: Privacy and its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Vincent, David (2015). I Hope I Don't Intrude: Privacy and its Dilemmas in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198725039.001.0001


This book takes its title from the catchphrase of the eponymous hero of the 1825 play Paul Pry, which was an immense success on the London stage and subsequently around the English-speaking world. It tackles the complex, multifaceted subject of privacy in nineteenth-century Britain by examining the debates that the trope of Paul Pry illuminated. The book presents a history of privacy conducted through a biography of a polymorphous fictional character embodied in myriad forms. The book uses a new kind of social history, using dense archival research to trace a cultural artefact through every aspect of its consumer context, and deploying its meanings to interrogate the largely hidden history of privacy in a period of major transformations in the role of the home, mass communication, and the state. The book presents an account of a recreational event in an era which saw a decisive shift from an articulated to a segmented market. In the examination of the discourses of privacy which Paul Pry brought into focus, the book casts light on the tensions between curiosity and intrusion which are captured by the play’s catchphrase.

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